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Special School District of St. Louis County
Gaining Skills to Succeed

Developing a strong set of social skills is important for students of all ages. Sharing, communicating, problem solving, interacting with authority figures and cooperating with peers are just a few primary skills that are learned early in life. Such skills help students navigate through both school and childhood, and eventually lead to what it takes to succeed in adulthood.

"Social skills are absolutely crucial," said Northview High School principal Stephanie Valleroy. "Employers today are looking for people that can have a conversation and conduct themselves with basic social skills. And that's not just those that employ workers with disabilities, it's all employers."

At Hazelwood West High School, students of all abilities meet together regularly. They team up to form the Peer Buddies club, where students receiving SSD services join with other students to cheer together at school sporting events. They get together before games to socialize, eat pizza and make posters that support their team. During the game, they sit together in the stands to make up a special cheering section among the fans. Although they might not realize it, members of Peer Buddies are forming valuable social skills through their interactions.

"It gives our SSD students more confidence in themselves," said club sponsor and SSD speech/language pathologist Jodi Schutzenhofer. "It helps with self esteem. I think that it's real-life practice and it's a safe place because they're with friends."

But it's not just SSD students that benefit from being in Peer Buddies.

"Everyone is there to have fun and make friends," Schutzenhofer said. "It shows all students that diversity comes in many ways."

SSD students throughout St. Louis County have no shortage of programs designed to grow these valuable social skills.

"At Northview, we have the Northview Girls Group that is made up of students across all abilities," Valleroy said. "They concentrate on making friendships and dealing with controversy."

Students that are in the Bridges program at Northview also have the opportunity to join the After School Program where they are given the chance to stay after school to work together on team sports, cooking, crafts or just for fun.

"It's actually a privilege for these students to stay after school," Valleroy said.

At Neuwoehner High School, many students participate in Boot Camp—a student-led group that combines physical activities with social skills like helping others, self-monitoring, leadership, partnerships and mentoring.

Physical therapist Laurie Dahle, who has seen the positive impact of the Boot Camp group, recounted the experiences of one of her students at Neuwoehner School.

"Just the idea that these mentor students were talking to my student and included him and showed him how to do things was a big deal," Dahle said. "He was very self-conscious at first. But the leaders kept encouraging him and he got more comfortable and more verbal. Now he's doing things as a student that wouldn't have happened two or three years ago. Now he's the one speaking up and interacting with other students."
thumbs up
"It's just fun to spend time with my friends there."

–Barbara Behlmann on joining Peer Buddies
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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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